Sony to launch 4K TV that improves on high-definition

The flat-panel TV will be based on the 4K format (see video below)

Sony will launch a flat-panel television globally later this year that has more than four times the number of pixels than today's high-definition TVs.

The television is based on a format called "4K," which represents the horizontal resolution of the screen. While current high-definition TVs have screens with 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels, the new TV has a screen with 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels.

The 84-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) TV represents a "major step forward," said Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony, speaking at a news conference during the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. (See video of Hirai unveiling the TV on YouTube.)

Sony is no stranger to the 4K format. Its Sony Pictures unit already shoots movies in 4K and Sony's 4K projectors can be found in movie theaters, but content using the format hasn't made it to the home yet.

While consumers wait for the availability of native 4K content, Sony is building an upscaler into the set that will take existing high-def images and convert them through a software algorithm to 4K resolution. That's meant to make them look better than current high-def although it's too early to tell if this trick will do that. DVD players used a similar technology to make DVDs look better on high-def TVs.

The lack of content hasn't prevented Sony from putting on sale a couple of 4K home theater projectors.

Sony hasn't announced a price for the XBR-84X900 TV but its projectors sell for around $25,000. That goes some way to indicating the price of the LCD TV will likely be high.

"It's an unprecedented and revolutionary viewing experience," Hirai said. "The experience is so immersive, you want to touch everything in front of you."

That seemed to be the case at IFA. Despite being placed on a stage area at the center of the expansive Sony booth, some people were jumping on stage to stand next to it and have their pictures taken by friends.

The resolution of the new TV is slightly under the conventional definition of 4K, which is 4,096 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels high. Sony didn't explain the difference but it likely has to do with the LCD manufacturing process as the horizontal resolution is exactly double that of current HDTV panels.

Sony will launch before the end of this year a TV with four times the number of pixels as today's high-def sets.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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